Ed Driscoll

DEATH WISH

Paul Greenberg uses Charles Bronson’s obituary to remind us just how bad the 1970s really were:

Back in the 1970s, that most depressing of decades, Charles Bronson found himself at the center of a debate over political correctness–long before there was a phrase for it. He became a cult hero because of one movie, “Death Wish.”

The New York Times’ always decent movie reviewer, Vincent Canby, hated the story line of “Death Wish”: A nice, liberal architect turns into a killer seeking vengeance after his wife is killed and his daughter raped. Whereupon he starts wiping out the city’s muggers, making the audience cheer.

To Mr. Canby, this was the vilest heresy. And he wasn’t having any of it. He called it “a despicable movie, one that raises complex questions in order to offer bigoted, frivolous, oversimplified answers.”

As it happens, the country was ready for some simplified answers: Enforce the laws, even and especially the minor ones, before the vandals and muggers grew into killers and rapists. Lock ’em up. Rudy Giuliani, a tough prosecutor, became a tougher mayor in New York, succeeding a long series of nice, ineffective ditherers who had largely given in to urban terror.

Suddenly the laws were being enforced–with, yes, a vengeance. And it worked. The same attitude could be detected when the issue was the national defense or international diplomacy. And things began to change in this country, and in the world. It was morning in America again, as if we had awakened from our stupor and remembered who we were.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Jesse Walker also has some thoughts in a similar vein.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: The comments section on Reason’s “Hit & Run” blog about this article are quite interesting as well.